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Locust Valley rallies for title berth

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Last Saturday at Farmingdale State College, the Locust Valley girls’ basketball team walked into the locker room at halftime in an unfamiliar circumstance. Trailing in its Nassau Class A semifinal by nine to a Manhasset team that surged late in the second quarter, Locust Valley and head coach Mike Guidone stayed calm.

“I was just as frustrated as the players, but being anything other than calm and supportive wouldn’t have worked in that moment,” Guidone said. “The girls were very calm themselves. We knew that offense would come from our defense and we were confident.”

Sixteen minutes and a few key shots later, Locust Valley secured a county championship game berth with a 53-45 victory over Manhasset. The still-undefeated Lady Falcons will meet the undefeated and top seeded Lady Knights of Floral Park this Saturday for the crown at 2:30 p.m. at Farmingdale State.

“Certainly, they had a lot of pride in themselves to be able to come back and had a lot of excitement to get one game closer to our ultimate goal,” Guidone said. “But there is no doubt that they knew we had one more big game to play. Although excited and prideful, they knew it wasn’t over.”

After refocusing on the gameplan walking out of the halftime locker room, Locust Valley held Manhasset to just six points in the third quarter. Guidone also put the ball in the hands of Paige O’Brien as the primary ball handler in the third quarter.

“Defensively, Manhasset did a good job of keeping [Lindsay] Hogan and O’Brien away from the ball in the first half,” Guidone said. “When we put the ball in the hands of Paige in the third quarter, we trusted her to make good decisions on and off the ball, utilizing good screens for others to get their looks.”

Julia Sabbatino scored a game-high 18 points and hit a clutch free throw with 5:11 left in the final frame to tie the game at 38. Hogan, a three-point specialist, was chased off of the three-point line all game by Manhasset. All of Locust Valley’s shooters were. Manhasset’s gameplan was apparent: get Locust Valley moving towards the basket and get hands in the passing lanes and force bad decisions. However, with 4:08 left and the game still tied at 38, Locust Valley had a look to sink their first three-pointer of the night. Hogan set her feet in the corner just beyond the arc, rose and let the ball fly before it caressed the bottom of the net and put Locust Valley ahead for good.

“That really took the steam out of Manhasset,” Guidone said. “They did everything they could from that point on, but we were hitting our free throws late.”

Guidone is well aware Floral Park will be taking some inspiration from Manhasset’s defensive successes in the first half. He remains adamant, though, that all he and his team can do is prepare as fiercely as they have all season long.

“We just want to be physically in our top shape and prepared for anything that we see,” Guidone said. “We can’t worry about what other team could or could not do differently. We just want to come with our best game.”